WOODBINE MILE | PURSE: $1 MILLION | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | GRADE 1 | 1 MILE (TURF)
Wise Dan became the first two-time winner of the Ricoh Woodbine Mile when he romped to victory Sept. 15 in track-record time over the Toronto track's turf course as the shortest-priced favorite in the race's 17 renewals.
With jockey John Velazquez aboard, the defending United States Horse of the Year won his ninth consecutive race for owner/breeder Morton Fink and trainer Charles LoPresti, who won the Woodbine Mile for the third straight year.
It was the fourth win in the the race for Velazquez, most of any rider, while LoPresti tied Hall of Famers Bobby Frankel and Neil Drysdale for most training victories.
Wise Dan, who surpassed $5 million in career earnings with his 18th lifetime win in 25 starts, was timed in 1:31.75 over firm turf. It eclipsed the mark of Royal Regalia, who turned in a 1:31.84 clocking on July 1, 2004.
"He's a dream come true," LoPresti told TVG afterward. "He makes us very proud. What a wonderful horse!"
The Woodbine Mile victory guaranteed Wise Dan a return start in the Breeders' Cup Mile Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park as part of the "Win & You're In" challenge series.
Za Approval finished second, with British invader Trade Storm third in the field of six, which was the smallest in the race's history.
Wise Dan paid $2.50 to win as the 1-4 favorite, the Woodbine Mile's smallest win payoff. The previous low return, $3.10, was also by Wise Dan when he won in 2012.
The champ settled in hand for Velazquez whie racing uncovered in third, two lengths off the leaders as Excaper along the inside beat Dimension to the front down the backstretch. Excaper provided a solid tempo, getting the first quarter mile in :23.15 and the half in :45.44 before Dimension took a narrow advantage while reaching the quarter pole on the turn in 1:08.50.
Velazquez gave Wise Dan his head at the top of the stretch, joining the leaders at the three-sixteenths pole, and the race was quickly all but over. Wise Dan took command by three lengths at the eighth pole, coming home under quiet handling well in front.
"I compare it to the horse I sat on, Leroidesanimaux, when he won over here [in the Woodbine Mile], but I always said he was a freak," Velazquez said. "This one is a much bigger freak than the other one. He's A much better horse. Always wins. Horse of the Year, you can't change that.
"The only thing that kind of concerned me a little bit, I think I did a little too much with him in the post parade. He was kind of quiet and then he broke well and I put him right behind the other two horses [Excaper and Dimension] and he got rank with me behind the other two horses and I thought, 'Come on buddy, please come off the bridle a little bit.'
"Once he did that I waited until the five sixteenths pole and let him ease out from those two horses and as soon as he saw the wire he just went on."
Za Approval, ridden by Garrett Gomez, gave game chase in the stretch with a three-wide move after stalking the pace in fourth for most of the journey, but was no match for the winner. He finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of Trade Storm, who put in a mild late bid along the inside for Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. Riding the River, Dimension, and Excaper trailed.
Carrying 124 pounds, Wise Dan paid $2.50, $2.10, and $2.10 across the board while topping a $7 exacta. Za Approval, who was runner-up to Obviously in the Shoemaker Mile in his most recent start June 29 at Betfair Hollywood Park, returned $3.50 and $2.20. Trade Storm, a Group 2 winner at Meydan in March, paid $2.60.
Bred in Kentucky by Fink, Wise Dan is by Wiseman's Ferry out of the Broodmare of the Year Lisa Danielle, by Wolf Power. The powerfully built chestnut gelding won last year's Woodbine Mile by a nearly identical 3 ¼ lengths.
LoPresti, whose first Woodbine Mile win came in 2011 with Turallure, said prior to this year's race that Wise Dan would likely train up to the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, a race he won in track-record time a year ago. Wise Dan could possibly also come back in the Shadwell Turf Mile next month at Keeneland, depending on how he is doing, LoPresti said.
Wise Dan, who is based at Keeneland, won the Shadwell Turf Mile last year in building a Horse of the Year campaign that also included Eclipse Awards as the nation's leading turf and older horse. Fink and LoPresti have taken criticism this season for not laying out a more ambitious plan for their superstar, but they have not wavered in their desire to do what they believe is in the horse's best interests.
"I don't have the right word to tell you how much it means to me," Fink said. "He is a super horse but he's there because Charlie takes care of him. When you handle a horse that can run like this, the temptation is to run him every couple of weeks. He is a money machine. It will never happen as long as Charlie and I have anything to do with him."
With the latest victory, Wise Dan has banked $5,043,610.
"You try not to do too much with him, LoPresti said. "You just really got to keep him fresh between races. He is such an incredible workhorse that you don't want to work him too many times and once you get him to this level you just got to maintain him.
"I hope he is around for a lot more years, I tell you."